Well, heck, it's over and done with. When I first heard about the Cross Egypt Challenge I thought what an awesome ride that would be and kind of put the thought aside. Then it popped up again and I mentioned it to Eric. Honestly, I didn't think he would be all that excited about riding little scooters all over Egypt but to my surprise he showed some interest. So we both did some research and had much discussion about doing this ride. I checked into airfares and made a number of queries to the Cross Egypt Challenge (CEC) team before we actually committed to the ride. Eric secured the time off he needed from work and I let my clients know I would be unavailable from mid-October until early November.
Before deciding which flight to take we discussed how much time we wanted to spend in Cairo or Alexandria before the event started and if we wanted to do an extended layover on the way home. We decided three days in Cairo would be nice. That would give us the time to get over any jet lag and also do a few tours before meeting up with the CEC group and starting our scooter adventure. We also decided that since a layover of some kind was a given, an extended layover would be fun on the way home. Here, we had multiple choices depending on which flight we took. We could layover in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Paris or London. Eric picked Paris and I was just fine with that!
If you followed this blog at all, you know what happened. However, I wanted to post an Epilogue and fill you in on some missing details and just provide some general insights and thoughts regarding this stellar trip.
First, we purchased new LS2 full face helmets in black, (FF385 CR1), since this was a CEC requirement. We had the option to rent helmets but we found a super sale, (essentially the cost of the rental helmets), and I was more comfortable with my own helmet. I didn't wear it once before we left for Egypt. I know, I should have worn it and worked out any hot spots but I didn't. And......all I can say is I love this helmet!!!!! I never once had a hot spot or uncomfortable area on my head or face. It fit wonderfully. At first, the cheeks were a bit snug but with repeated use it loosened up a bit. As a matter of fact, it was so comfortable, I never even gave it a second thought. I also loved the drop down sunshade, pump up/down cheek pads and quick release latch. So, when I need another new helmet, I'll definitely be looking at the LS2 offerings!
We also didn't take any protective gear other than helmets, boots and gloves, weird for us because we are big ATGATT peeps. The genuine, overpriced, well-used Harley boots served me just fine. I waterproofed them before we left and it was a good thing because we got the only rain in 5 years in Egypt! We rode in jeans and the CEC tee shirts. That was also fine for the most part - however- jeans and super hot temperatures and sweaty bootie cheeks are a great combination for monkey butt. Ouch! I had debated taking my LD Comfort tights but didn't. Wish I had at least taken a pair of LD Comfort shorts. Lesson learned :-)
When we arrived at the CEC start in Alexandria we found out just how large this event was going to be. There were 75 riders. Here is the breakdown:
We also had another 25 or so peeps along on the Challenge. Maybe 10 of those were passengers in the support vans. Several of the Taiwanese guys brought their wives and an Australian lady brought her daughter. We had another gal from Germany who came along in the van just for the adventure! We also had at least 15, if not more, support folks. Everything from drivers, technicians (for maintenance and repairs), cooks, event planners, photographers and more.
I think there were 9 support vehicles. 3 Range Rovers, 1 lead car, 2 passenger vans, 1 large open cargo truck, 1 large enclosed cargo truck and 1 gas tanker.
Most importantly for this event to be successful were the organizers and their crew. They were simply fantastic.
. (Not in order) Kerolos Shenouda, Hadeer Hisham El Masry, Ahmed El Morshedy, Shady Safwat Garas, Ahmad Elzoghby, Shady Mamdouh, Karim Mishriki, Ahmed Abou El Kheir, Amr Anas Khalil,Ahmed Fahmy, Christine Edward Manoukian, Omar H. Sallam and Hossam Salem.
I greatly admire this entire team. For the most part, everything was seamless to the riders. They were incredibly organized and had thought through contingencies. We even had two doctors along with their medical kits. Oh, we also had an ambulance along the ride, just in case. As a matter of fact, the ambulance was put to use one day when a spectator in a car going the other direction lost control of their vehicle as they were gawking at us and unfortunately drove into the median and flipped several times! Fortunately for them, the ambulance was immediately on the scene and rendered appropriate aid.
Now, herding 75 riders, 9 support vehicles and all their occupants was akin to herding hamsters. And, I have to say, they did it admirably. Nobody lost their temper, nobody got pissy even when the riders did. Hotel rooms were secured for us without snafu, meals were served, tours were taken, bikes were repaired. All of this for nine days without hiccups! Also, and most importantly, there were no major injuries or accidents. No small feat considering the amount of time we spent riding and especially on questionable road surfaces. There were a few riders who had never ridden anything other than a bicycle before!
We were quite a group to see!
Our gas tanker.
So, it is with gratitude and admiration along with big hugs, I heartily say Thank You to the 2015 CEC team, you guys rock!
Now, the good parts of this adventure....riding scooters for 9 days across Egypt comes in at number one! The sights, the sounds, the smells, the terrain, most certainly the wonderful people, most of the food, the lodgings (except for the tents :-) It was all good. Even the rain riding into Hurghada was fun. Yup, that was a good part as it just enhanced the entire adventure.
For me, the balloon ride out of Luxor, rising up into the air just before sunrise and watching the sun peek out and cover the Nile river valley in a golden glow was probably my most memorable moment.
The bad parts? Well, I guess it depends on what you consider bad. The parts that weren't particularly wonderful were the lack of facilities for us ladies. Although we (the ladies) complained and they (the organizers) swore they would make a port-a-potty available for us, that didn't always happen. In fact, it rarely happened. And, finding a bush was simply not going to happen, there weren't any bushes. Sometimes, we could find a decent dune but not always and that caused much discomfort. Especially for the seven lady riders. At stops, we had to first get in line and re-fuel our scooters before we could take care of other business and sometimes, because of the schedule, we didn't have a very long rest stop......
The seven courageous lady riders!
The occasional ladies restroom. Like maybe 3 times out of 20?
The always available men's restroom.
Food. Well, I'll be the first to admit I'm used to Western food. Of course I am, I'm from the West. However, I'm pretty game to try just about anything. Most of the food was good, some of it was bad. I think most everyone, including the organizers, got real tired of the hotel buffet fare. It wasn't particularly tasty and sometimes it was downright nasty. Not because it was Eastern, but because it was hotel buffet fare, lol. Our lunches on the road also got a bit monotonous. Pretty much beans at every meal. Sometimes the beans were super, yummy tasty and other times they were just beans to choke down. All meals were vegetarian, which I'm okay with. I also understand the difficulty of preparing a meal for 100 peeps while traveling and not having a local grocer along the way. The CEC team did an outstanding job considering what they had to work with. I just got tired of beans :-)
But, look how fun this is! Our lunch crew getting a meal ready for us. They were a lot of fun :-)
I was a bit disappointed at some of the lodging choices. I was expecting 4 star accommodations as had been advertised. Some of the hotels, well, they were a bit dilapidated and not so clean. Our hotel in Luxor comes to mind. In it's heyday, it was obviously the four star but now, ten years later, somewhat run-down and in need of some TLC. On the other hand, finding accommodations for 100 peeps with secure parking for the scooters and support vehicles was certainly a challenge for the organizers.
Overall, the lodging was just fine. We actually had some fantastic hotels along the Red Sea. What I really, really, really didn't care for - the tent camping (Been there, done that and don't want to do it anymore). We had been told all of our lodging would be 4 star hotels. A small tent on the hard ground, miles from anything, with a couple of chaise lounge cushions was a looooong way from 4 stars! To be fair, the organizers had posted on Facebook (their main communication venue) that we would have a night of camping. Upon reading this news, I immediately queried them as to power (my honey uses a CPAP at night and needs power to run it) and possible hotel options. The response was there would be power available but no mention of hotel options. Well, by now, we had already paid for the adventure and our departure was imminent so I just hoped for the best. When we got to the Camel Camp and saw the situation, it was very obvious that the "power" was only to be had at the two toilet buildings and our tents were a long way from there. After a few hours, allowing plenty of time for everyone to get settled and the organizers to be a bit more relaxed, Eric and I approached the main organizer and asked to speak privately. We both voiced our concerns and requested other accommodation. Within an hour we were taken to a resort for the night and then re-united with the rest of the group very, very early the next morning.
Where we actually stayed....
I truly appreciate the quick response and corrective action taken by the organizers upon our request to re-locate for the night. I really think the organizers should have made a resort or hotel option available to all the participants. I know they wanted to keep the group together, especially for security reasons. However, if they had treated the overnight at the Camel Camp as an excursion or tour, I'm sure things would have worked out just fine. From the conversations in the morning, more than a few of our co-participants would have appreciated the option. Really, this was my only bitch (other than a place to pee:-).
Well, you've read my bitches and think maybe it wasn't so good? It was good, it was awesome. Read my blog posts which are pages and pages of wonderful and this post which it a few paragraphs of not so good :-) All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic adventure! It stretched our comfort zones in many ways but still wasn't scary. In fact, it was easy really. We were extremely well taken care of by the organizers and all the security folks.
Yeah, I photo bombed! If you know me, ask me about #20 sometime, lol :-)
There is probably a lot more to say, but I can't remember right this minute. What I will remember for a lifetime is how magnificent this adventure was. How fantastic the organizing team was. How wonderfully diverse and interesting all the participants were. How warm, friendly and welcoming the Egyptian people were. How incredible the places we saw, visited and stayed were. How much this adventure enriched my life and improved my riding, communication and interpersonal skills.
Would I go again? Well, at first I would say no, been there, done that. But on retrospect, maybe. A different route? It might intrigue me enough to say, you betcha, I'm in!
I want to give a big special shout out to my honey, Eric. Thank you for humoring me and going on this adventure! Also, a big thanks for helping with the blog, editing and adding your spin. I wouldn't have had nearly as much fun without you! As one of the participants said to us in a very personal, honest way, "You are blessed" and yes, we are blessed to have each other to enjoy and have adventures together. I love my honey and look forward to many more adventures :-)
Thanks to all of you that follow along. You help make everyday a wonderful day and I love to share it with you.
We will be doing a few more adventures in the coming year. I'm going to try and put together a small, intimate Baja California, Cabo San Lucas adventure as well as the European Alps and Alaska. I hope you will consider coming along with us and enjoy a good ride. Ping me if you're interested!
Cheers and hugs to all,